The outbreak at Douglas Concentration Camp on November 19 , which necessitated an immediate visit to the Island, has afforded the, Destitute Aliens Committee the opportunity of presenting a, report to the Secretary of State on the general conditions of the two camps for non-combatant alien enemies in the Isle Of Man, and of making certain recommendations. The following Report. is prepared by the Chairman Colonel Roy, and Dr. Bond, who with the Secretary visited the camps last week [Col Madoc noted their visit on 26th November 1914].
At the older of the two camps, which is situated in Douglas, some 3,307 aliens are now interned.
The Committee originally approved of this camp as suitable for the detention of 2,400.
The numbers were however, with the consent of the Committee, temporarily increased by some 900 owing to the necessity of providing accommodation at once for a larger number of interned aliens than the War Office could cope with.
The Committee are of opinion that the numbers in this camp should be reduced at the earliest, possible opportunity to at most 2,400, so as to put an end to the present overcrowding, and to render the recreation field again available for its proper purpose. Arrangements could then be made to prevent the prisoners wandering from one compound to the other: this is at present a most undesirable feature from a disciplinary point of view, particularly as, owing to the formation or the camp, the aliens have to pass through the guard room in order to reach the dining room and the lower camp. With reduced numbers the men could, in the morning after they have cleaned up the camp, be marched in an orderly manner to the lower end where the dining and recreation halls are situated, and would remain there till they are marched back again. Parties proceeding to the baths and washing-tables should be told off for these purposes at fixed days and hours.
Notwithstanding the temporary overcrowding, the camp is, on the whole, well adapted for its purpose, and the visitors were not surprised to learn from Mr. Chandler Hale, who had, on behalf of the American Embassy, inspected all the German and Austrian, and most of the British, camps, that in his opinion it was undoubtedly the best. Many of the aliens were personally interviewed : they all appeared to be perfectly content with their treatment and with the discipline exercised by the commandant and his staff. Some complaints were made, not only as to the monotony of the diet, but also as to its quality on some occasions. As regards the quantity and nature of the food supplied, the Committee consider the dietary to be suitable, ample, and palatable. Except on one or two occasions, the Committee, who made most careful enquiries into the matter, are satisfied that the quality has been quite satisfactory. Unfortunately, some weeks ago a supply of potatoes was purchased which, though of good appearance and quality, was to some extent infested with wire-worms, and these were used in the stew and also in the separate dishes; instead of the matter being immediately put right, as was undoubtedly practicable, the fault was not remedied for probably near] y a, fortnight, and the prisoners were driven to complain, not only of the potatoes in question, but also of the meat, which they erroneously thought was tainted in the same manner.
Amongst the men in detention are captains, stewards, and many cooks and sailors who have extensive experience of catering, having been employed on emigrant ships. Representations were made to the Committee that it would much conduce to contentment in the camp if some of their number could be employed both in the kitchen, not merely to cook, but also to assist in the general inspection of the stores and the preparation of the meals.
The camp belongs to a. Mr. Cunningham, who acts as contractor, receiving 10s. a week per head, and the Isle of Man authorities are of the opinion that he might not at once approve of this suggestion. Having regard, however to the fact that if men are contented with their rations, the general discipline of the camp is likely to be materially improved, the Committee strongly urge that every effort should be made to come to a satisfactory arrangement with Mr Cunningham on this head. The Committee were informed that the men would be only too willing to take over the whole of the kitchen work; and they think that the opportunity of reducing the paid staff of the camp, and at the same time giving greater satisfaction to the men should be seized. Moreover there are objections to the presence of women in the camp. The Committee are also of the opinion that more effective means should be adopted so that complaints from the aliens should be dealt with on the spot by some authority.
No doubt many of these complaints are of a trivial nature, and should be rectified by captains appointed by the prisoners themselves, but arrangements should be made for these captains to interview regularly an officer deputed by the Commandant for this purpose with power to deal with them himself or refer then to higher authorities.
It also appears desirable that several copies of all notices as to matters affecting the inmates of the camp should be exhibited in both the German and English languages in several parts of the camp, so that prisoners may be able to obtain information first hand and not gradually through hearsay.
On the site of the upper camp large huts are now being erected, each of which will accommodate some 220 men. These are being put up mainly by the aliens : they appear comfortable, but the Committee are strongly of the opinion that every precaution should be made for their more effective ventilation, and the authorities must make and maintain systematic arrangements to ensure their cleanliness and the frequent exposure of all bedding to the air, &c.
Notices printed in German should be placed in each hut for the purpose of securing order and cleanliness, and the instructions therein contained should he most strictly enforced, and any failure to comply with them punished.
The Committee are of the opinion that provision should be made, and every encouragement should be given to the interned men to work at suitable occupations both useful and recreative : and with this object accommodation should be provided for workshops where many trades could be plied. There are several tailors, boot-makers, carpenters, &c., in the camp who would avail themselves of these opportunities, and whose work would be of great benefit to the interned community, and would tend to bring about a more contented condition in the camp. No complaints were made to us as to the lack of means of recreation; but it was obvious that an additional supply of simple games, cards, cheap writing materials, and books was desirable.
Colonel Roy made special enquiry as to the guard, which is composed of National Reserves from Lancashire and Isle of Man Volunteers. The arrangements made were in our opinion sufficient and appropriate, subject to certain minor points of criticism, which were communicated to the Commandant. The most important of these recommendations was that a new guard-room should be provided separate from that now used for the purpose and altogether outside the passages and thoroughfares used by the aliens.
The camp at Knockaloe at present leaves much to be desired, the defects arising from overcrowding and failure to complete certain works necessary for the comfort both of inmates and guard. The Committee strongly regret that the Insular authorities when they found that they were not able to carry out their undertaking to have. the camp ready by 11 November for the reception of 5,000 aliens, did not immediately report this to the Committee for the information of the War Office, as much inconvenience and dissatisfaction would have been prevented.
At the present moment some 1,334 prisoners are interned there, and are much overcrowded, some of the huts contain double the number of men which could properly be accommodated there permanently.
The Committee gave directions that the reception of aliens should be suspended until further orders.
The soil in this camp is heavy clay, and the Committee cannot too strongly repeat their recommendation to the Isle of Man authorities that there should be no delay in making proper roads in the camps so that the prisoner and guard alike may have reasonably dry walks. The compounds now are little better than swamps and will become worse as the winter advances, while the present system of strewing ashes is of no avail. The necessity of this was urged to the Isle of Man authorities before the Committee approved of the site It is clear that all the roads and paths in the camp which will be exposed to constant use should have a proper foundation as well as the cinder surface This can be provided by the prisoners labour The hospital should be finished with as little delay as possible and arrangements should at once made so that the medical staff will be sufficient to meet the needs of the camp.
After most carefully considering the question the Committee are of the opinion that the huts where the men sleep should not be used for messing purposes, and that separate dining huts should at an early date be provided for each compound. The only alternative to this course would be to reduce the numbers in each hut so substantially as to leave the accommodation adequate for use by day as well as by night
They are also of the opinion that dry paths should be made round each hut.
It is desirable that the Commandant should try and arrange that men of the same social position should, as far as possible, be berthed and mess together. The same suggestions as to sanitary arrangements and the other recommendations made for Cunningham's Camp should be strictly enforced here. It is also advisable that the bath rooms should be erected speedily, and the men compelled to use them under supervision at regular intervals.
The Committee are of the opinion that with time Knockaloe will prove to be a perfectly satisfactory concentration camp, as the present condition can only he attributed to overcrowding and insufficient equipment, and they have impressed upon the Isle of Man authorities the urgent need of hastening and supervising the work which is being carried out by the contractor and of carrying out the suggestions now made. In fairness to the authorities it is only right to point out that the weather on the Island has been so exceptionally wet and stormy as to make work practically impossible.
A report by Dr. Bond as to certain matters which require special attention in connection with the sanitary arrangements of both camps is attached hereto as an appendix : it, has been communicated to the Insular Authorities with directions that it, may receive immediate attention along with the other recommendations of this report.
The members of the Committee attended the inquest. on the bodies of the aliens who were killed in the course of the Riot at Cunningham's Camp, and are absolutely satisfied that the Guard -,were justified in dealing with the attack made on them in the manner they adopted. The jury unanimously found that the deaths of the five prisoners were caused by the justifiable measures forced on the military authorities by the riotous behaviour of a large section of the aliens. An official report of the inquest is appended. From this, and from the additional information which the visitors received from various sources, it was clear to them that the shooting was a measure justified by the circumstances, that it was taken by the men of the guard on their own responsibility, in accordance with the Regulations of the camp, and in some instances on the presumption (not in accordance with fact) that an authoritative order to fire had been given. The firing ceased the moment the need for it was at an end. The occurrence has been investigated at a full public enquiry before the competent legal tribunal provided by the Constitution of the Island, and no further research seems practicable or desirable.
It was not made clear that the outbreak had any definite practical object in view. There was no evidence leading to the conclusion that an attempt was being made to escape from the camp, or to release a prisoner, or to attack the kitchen staff, it was, as far as can be judged, a concerted attempt engineered by a few agitators and supported by many of the prisoners to make a " patriotic demonstration " in the shape of a riot-, and there can be no doubt that, in view of the large numbers (some 2,400) assembled in the dining hall, prompt suppression was necessary in order to prevent the overpowering and disarming of the guard, and further consequences of the most serious sort. .
A repetition of the outbreak seems improbable; but the visitors feel that steps should at once be taken to prevent so serious a, responsibility again falling on the guard to secure the presence of an officer on all occasions when the aliens are so congregated as to give opportunity for a serious combined attack on authority.
The visitors spent several hours in the camps, and are satisfied that stricter discipline will have to be maintained. All sorts and descriptions of men are interned, and every advantage will be taken of any laxness on the part of the Authorities. Owing to the great difficulty of providing any form of employment men sit about idling, and there is a tendency for some of them to be become sullen and desperate, and to exercise a dangerous influence on the rest. insubordination naturally follows : consequently all forms of employment, drilling, and other exercises should be encouraged. The Committee would strongly urge that the prisoners who clear show a disposition to insubordination, and the fomenting of insubordination among others, should be removed from camps which are designed for the detention of aliens who are, for the most part, amenable to discipline. These should be relegated to a purely military camp where more stringent measures can be taken for the preservation of discipline.
1. The sanitary arrangements at Knockaloe are at present temporary, and those designed for permanence insufficiently advanced to permit of inspection and criticism. But I would strongly advise careful consideration being given to the question of the safety of laying the water-mains in the same trenches in which lie the sewage pipes-which are not on concrete-conveying the swill from the kitchens and other domestic offices and the urine from the urinals. Under these circumstances the greatest care should be taken that the joints of the water-mains and pipes are so perfect as to prevent aspiration into them of leakage from the sewage pipes.
2. I recommend the provision at night of urine-buckets outside the doors of all huts at both camps, except those in the immediate proximity to urinals.
3. An analysis of samples of water obtained from taps in the various kitchens at Knockaloe-from each kitchen in rotation at least once a month should be made. 4. Provision should be made for completely clearing and washing, and then spraying with a solution of formalin, each but at regular intervals.
5. I am glad to observe that following upon the emptying of the swimming bath at Cunningham's Camp, a commencement has been made of the installation of sprays, and I would urge that a liberal supply of these be put in round all four sides of the empty bath, and that warm water (abt., 90° F.) be supplied instead of cold. A single Rovle's mixer would probably suffice for the room, and would prevent danger from scalding.
6. Weekly bath.-Every prisoner at each camp ought to be made to have a warm spray bath once a week. Opportunity ought to be taken on these occasions to inspect the skin, and especially the feet and other places where skin comes in contact with skin, for spots, pimples, &c., and those cases ought to be brought to the notice of the medical officer of the camp.
7. Every prisoner admitted directly and not through another camp ought to be subjected to a medical examination as soon as practicable after admission, and it would be well to arrange at each camp that all such prisoners directly admitted should be received through one particular but under special medical observation.
8. Disinfector.--With the expansion of the camp at Knockaloe a steam disinfector for clothing ought to be provided.
9. Protective inoculation.-1 would again urge that all prisoners should at least be given an opportunity of effective inoculation" against typhoid.
10.Rats.-Efforts ought to be made to exterminate, or at any rate to keep their number as low as possible. The question of using, e.g., the Liverpool virus ought to be considered.
C. HUBERT BOND.
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2018